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Cheap Thrills: How to buy second-hand gadgets without going gaga

EXCEPT for drinking cold beer, ogling hot women and occasionally
scratching their private parts in public, perhaps no other obsession
has made more fools out of men than their preoccupation with gadgets.
Yes, gadgets, otherwise known as handy pieces of equipment, usually
electronic, significantly overpriced, and generally packed with
features so advanced these are ignored, and are often rendered
useless.
Whether mobile phone, laptop, handheld computer, or nosehair trimmer,
gadgets to most men have become more addictive than drugs, more
alluring than porn, and more stimulating than the promise of sizzling,
committment-free sex with any single one of the half-naked starlets
shaking their respective booties on what passes for primetime
television in this country.
Despite atrocious prices and poorly-tested software, brand new
devices continue to flood the market because companies which make them
know they will never run out of customers, mostly males consumed by
technolust.
Unfortunately, the race for the latest and the greatest has always
been—and will always be—conquered by members of the moneyed class.
But this doesn’t necessarily mean that the rest of us—especially
low-income, deadline-beating deadbeats such as myself—need to turn
green from gadget-envy.
After all, the local market for second-hand, previously-owned gizmos
remains wide open. All it takes is a reliable internet connection to
find the equipment of your choice, enough mobile phone load credits to
quickly facilitate the negotiation, easy access to cash to consummate
the transaction, and some open-mindedness to ensure that the whole
undertaking is mutually beneficial.
Add some online savvy and you’ll be amazed to find out that Blanche
DuBois was right. Yes, Virginia, the mass of men who lead lives of
quiet desperation can rely on the kindness of strangers.
Last year, while looking for a new set of batteries for the already
obsolete Palm Vx, I managed to be put through a chief executive
officer of a medium-sized food processing company who happened to like
fiddling with old handhelds and talking at length with their users.
Less than a month after we first met, he not only gave me a spare set
of batteries, he also installed it himself, a process so tedious it
involves the use of—and I am not kidding when I say this—an iron.
Mr. CEO agreed to call it quits when I gave him a non-functioning
Palm IIIx, another handheld that I was only too willing to dispose of
since it gathered dust and animosity on my desk. (Nearly six years
ago, after I increased the PDA’s memory to eight megabytes from four,
the screen also had to be replaced, which cost me nearly the price of
a new unit. Thanks to my bad karma, the whole thing kicked the
electronic bucket shortly after.)
Anyway, since such mutually beneficial, non-cash transactions are
rare, in fact almost coincidental, nothing comes close to real-time
yet offline friends who also happen to be early adopters.
Willing to pay serious cash for the newest in technology, these
individuals will only find it too easy to let go of their
previously-owned yet well-maintained equipment at giveaway prices.
Take the Treo 650 smartphone I acquired early this year.
Besides paying less than half of what it went for when it was locally
introduced two or so years ago, the Treo package included a pricey
nylon case, a hands-free phone kit, a 1-gigabyte SD card, two sets of
chargers, an extra battery, a cradle, a spare retractable USB cable,
and tons of software.
But then again, the whole transaction remains the fringe benefit of
keeping close ties with my former UP professor, who writes a weekly
column for another newspaper.
During the mid-nineties, years before I became formally employed, the
professor sold me my first Mac, a 25Mhz PowerBook 520 which he
previously owned and which I paid for in six monthly installments.
Not long after, acquiring his hand-me-downs at more than reasonable
rates became something of a tradition between us. When my first ever
PowerBook conked out, I bought one of his PowerBook Duos a year or two
before the millennium. Meanwhile, last year, my wife bought his
PowerBook G4, which was a steal.
Unfortunately, acquiring previously-owned gadgets will always have
its hits and misses.
Late last year, I bought two used, first generation Bondi Blue iMacs
from two different individuals at prices so low even our office IT
administrator couldn’t believe it.
Soon enough, I had to eat humble pie.
I found out that the first was fitted with a hard disk that didn’t
work and that the second (which came with a DVD drive but whose left
speaker was busted) had a motherboard problem, an issue which these
kinds of iMacs are known for.
Unwilling to have both units fixed, I easily came up with the
second-best solution: I took it to a Quezon City-based Macintosh shop
where both units were cannibalized to produce a previously-owned yet
dependable iMac I could be proud of.
Since then, the iMac, which runs OSX, has been my workhorse, allowing
me to beat deadlines, such as this one, without any hassle at all.
Nevertheless, the whole undertaking has taught me a lesson, however
trite. Life is like a cheap gadget: sometimes, you get what you pay
for.

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This will appear in the March 2 issue of Personal Fortune, the monthly magazine of BusinessMirror, a Philippine broadsheet

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